Classic Shrimp and Asparagus Barley Risotto (pes, gf)

Earlier in the month, I published a slight spin on one of may favorite recipes. I essentially made this dish with broccoli in place of asparagus and added curry powder. This version, with asparagus, fresh lemon, and no curry powder, is my absolute favorite version and really delicious in the spring, when asparagus is at its peak. The lemon zest and juice really give this a bright kick of flavor; do yourself a favor and make sure to include the lemon. It makes all the difference in the world.



  • 1 lb (generally 1 bag) 31-40 count shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined
  • 1 1/4 c pearled barley
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 5 1/2 cups stock, or water + 4 tsps cooking base or bouillon
  • juice and zest of 1-2 lemons


Shrimp and asparagus: Bring the water to a boil, then add asparagus and blanch for two minutes, but no more. Remove from water (reserving cooking liquid), dunk into a bowl of ice water, remove, and set aside. This preserves color and crunch. In another small stock pot, bring water to a boil, then boil shrimp until pink, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside with asparagus. I like having a really fresh, clean taste to the shrimp in this version, so I find boiling them is best. Juice and zest your lemon(s).

onion cooking and asparagus blanching

 Heat the oil over medium in a large pot, then add onion and thyme when oil is hot. Cook for  3-4 minutes, until onion is beginning to become translucent. Add bay leaf, pepper, and barley, and toast for another minute more. As I mentioned in my last post, this step smells GOOD. Add the lemon juice and stir, deglazing the pot and breaking up any tasty bits that have become stuck to the bottom. Allow the lemon juice to evaporate just a bit.

Pour in the 5 1/2 cups of asparagus cooking water- this will impart  lot of flavor. Any way I can crank up flavor without adding lot of unnecessary fat, I will. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover, cooking for 40 minutes. There’s no need to stir.

When 40 minutes is up, uncover pot, stir in asparagus, shrimp, and lemon zest; continue to cook about a minute more, stirring, until veggies and shrimp are heated through. Serve and enjoy! This is very good with some parmesan cheese on top, but there’s not need to add it- the lemon and asparagus come through quite nicely. Reheats very well. Hooray for spring!

with Parmesan… mmmm

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